Monday, September 15, 2014

Doctor Who: “Listen” review

by Melissa Parkin

“What’s that in the mirror, 
and the corner of your eye?
What’s that footstep following, 
never passing by?
Perhaps they’re not just waiting, 
perhaps when we’re all dead
Out they’ll come a slithering, 
from underneath the bed.”

Could a nursery rhyme really hold a disturbing truth? This Steven Moffat penned episode, “Listen,” gives us plenty of insight. But is the outcome worthy of the initial buildup? The Doctor ponders the possibility that we are never alone. Evolution perfects survival skills, so is it possible that a living entity has perfected the art of HIDING?

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Clara returns home from her rather awkward first date with Danny Pink, only to find the TARDIS blocking her doorway. Upon sharing his theory, the Doctor enlists her help in hopes of proving himself right. Remember that dream of a hand grabbing your ankle from under the bed? The Doctor is convinced that we all share that same nightmare, and he connects Clara into the TARDIS’ telepathic link to take them to the first time she experienced the dream. Her thoughts stray during the process, and the two end up in front of a Gloucester children’s home at nighttime. There, Clara meets an oddly familiar boy, Rupert, and realizes soon enough that it’s actually Danny Pink’s younger self.

Clara tries convincing the frightened boy that there is no monster lurking under his bed. She tells him to join her as she lays down and climbs under there. Rupert finally finds comfort knowing that no one else is in the room . . . until the weight of the mattress dips down on top of them. Scuttling out, they find something sitting on Rupert’s bed with the blanket draped over itself.

Fear sits front and center in this episode. Given that this was written by the man responsible for monsters like the Weeping Angels and The Silence, it’s no surprise that we’d get something similar in style. “Listen” capitalizes on what makes chamber piece episodes so enthralling. Stripped to minimized special effects makeup and CGI, the tension is purely character based. In true Hitchcock form, it’s the subtlety that supplies the scares. It’s about what’s not being shown. Moffat proves that leaving everything to the imagination can in fact be scarier than a monstrous reveal.
The episode does suffer though from the uneven blending of genres. “Listen” starts off as a contemporary, but turns into a suspense story reminiscent of 2002’s Signs. Then, it becomes a science fiction thriller, before returning to a contemporary. All of the elements, in each act, are compelling. But they don’t blend smoothly into one another. Overall, “Listen” isn’t perfect, but it’s still one of Moffat’s bests. Peter Capaldi’s uncanny ability to deliver dry humor propels each scene into another league. Jenna Coleman shines for her sass with Capaldi’s Doctor and her onscreen chemistry with Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink. “Listen” is the best episode to date in the eighth series, and Moffat seems to be improving from week to week. 

Episode Rating: Solid A


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